A QUESTION OF CHARACTER: LAIRD VS THE CROWN
Statement of Agreed Facts
Tristan King, CEO of Shakespeare Scansion and Suspension, a multinational manufacturer of automobile parts and iambic pentameter verse, was found beaten to death in his suite of offices on the morning of March 16th 2000. Gaston Laird, the corporation’s CFO, and someone with whom King had a very tumultuous business relationship, moved into the top job. He emerged as a gifted leader, turning what had been a sluggish giant into a lean and profitable organization by dint of cost-cutting and a number of strategic acquisitions (especially the purchase of a controlling interest in Trochee and Brake). He was arrested on November 5th 2002 and charged with the murder of the man he had replaced.
The Crown’s case rested on the fact that Laird had motive and opportunity, that he and King, who was beloved by the company’s employees, detested each other, and that King had been preparing a file calling for the termination of Laird to be presented at the forthcoming AGM. Numerous witnesses testified to a tense and explosive relationship between the two men. Police found minute traces of King’s hair, skin, and blood on a large stone paperweight on Laird’s desk.
Laird’s counsel suggested that King might have been rather too beloved. The defense called several witnesses who attested to a long-standing affair between King and his executive secretary, Rosalind Koscuisko. The defendant argued that her husband also had a strong motive for the murder and presented to the jury a detailed account of Kosciusko’s history of violent spousal abuse and jealous rages as well as a number of past convictions for armed robbery. The defendant called witnesses who testified to Laird’s extensive work with Médicins sans Frontières and to his devotion to his wife and three young children.
The Crown requested and the Judge allowed into evidence the fact that, as a young man and at that time a line worker for Shakespeare Scansion and Suspension, Laird had been found guilty of aggravated assault after having beaten his supervisor. The two men had had a volatile relationship. While it was not known which man struck the first blow, Laird broke his supervisor’s nose with a punch and fractured several of his ribs and his collar bone by kicking him after he had fallen to the ground. The supervisor spent a week in hospital; Laird spent six months in jail.
Laird was found guilty of murder.
On appeal to the Court of Shakespeare, Laird seeks to have the conviction overturned, arguing that the evidence of his prior conviction was inadmissible and prejudicial, and was likely to have influenced the jury’s findings of fact. The brief addresses the nature of evidence in the Court of Shakespeare, arguing that its doctrine--
- (a) Emphasizes the dangers of circumstantial evidence
(b) Demonstrates the ways in which characters change over time
In response, the Crown rejects these assertions and furthermore insists that the Shakespearean canon treats evidence of character as crucial and coherent.
The Court accepts jurisdiction, grants leave to appeal, and directs the parties to address their arguments principally to the following precedents:
Antony and Cleopatra
Henry IV Parts I and II
The Taming of the Shrew
Set down for hearing November 10, 2005.
Registrar of the Court of Shakespeare